We normally view time and change in a linear fashion sequentially described as past, present and future. This article discusses change, not as a sequential series of events in time but as an unending spiral of flow that is always evolving in the present. It suggests that when leaders and managers view change in this way, they may be able to more readily deal with the pushes and pulls that it produces.
The spiral of change in the ever present now is the evolutionary process of growth and development. It is rejuvenating, affirming, denying, reconciling and birthing new actuality. It isn’t static, but ever changing, evolving, transforming and taking place in the now – in the present state – in an unfolding now.
Within the spiral, there is no past or future state. The future state only exists as a vision or a picture in the mind of someone who tries to paint possibilities or opportunities in an evolving present state. There is no past state, only a continuing present state. When we talk about the past, we talk about a former present state unfolding. We describe it in the present as memory. Everything exists in the present – an affirmed presence, a transformative present and a transformed present. There is only ‘nowing’ the unfolding memories, possibilities and opportunities.
The Affirmed Present State. In the affirmed present state a leader or group of individuals recognize that something is not right, and that something needs to change. They see possibilities and try to articulate a vision of what might or can be. The future is hidden in the present state, as is the past. They plant a seed of possibilities and rally a core of people around them to achieve those possibilities similar to a gardener who plants a seed and sees a flower or a person who looks at a caterpillar and sees the possibility of a butterfly.
The Transformative Present State. During the transformative present state leaders and leadership teams champion the possibilities – they incubate and forge the dynamic forces to make new things happen. The transformative state occurs in the ever-present state – it occurs now. Deniers want to hang on to their memories of the past. These I call ‘hangers of memories’. Champions of change and hangers of memories cause unsettling forces which result in the disruption of the transformative present state. In the unfolding present, champions of change nurture the seed of possibilities while hangers of memories cling to the status quo.
The New Transformed Present State. In the new transformed present state a new entity or dynamic emerges. To keep to the analogy the plant emerges out of the ground and blooms; the caterpillar becomes the colorful butterfly; and both are realized and affirmed in the continuing present state. The birthing process becomes actualized and what was deemed as a future vision is recognized as a new but continued affirmed present state, that is until a new leader or group see new opportunities and possibilities of a different vision, and then the unfolding of the spiral of change begins anew, but always in the present.
The present affirmed state, the present remembering state and new transformed present state don’t follow a logical sequence as one step leading to another. It is like a spiral where the ‘now’ of the present merges with the now of the memories and the now of the possibilities; where the spiral is slippery and people fall forward and slip back, take detours and come back to the incline of the spiral, get stuck in memories, get fired up in the excitement of what could be; and, where passion burns at both ends of the push and pull, eventually evolving into a new dynamic only to become affirmed, denied and renewed again, yet always presently moving forward with possibilities and bringing memories in its dynamic present unfolding flow.
The spiral of change is a philosophical departure from how we normally understand the dynamics of change. It may help us deal with those who wish to hang on to the memories and those who want to move to a new reality too quickly. Since change always happens in the present - in the now – we can help people clarify and deal with their memories, not as something in the past, but as pictures in their mind occurring in the present. So rather than shutting down people who want to hang on to the past as if it was a period of time, we expose their memories as something real for them in the present; help them let go of those elements of the memory that are not helpful; and, let them vision the possibilities of a new memory. We can also help those who pressure to move too quickly to understand the disruption it causes for those who are struggling with their memories and the impact that moving too quickly has on the transformative present state.
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Thank you for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie MSW